Caitlin Griffithoffers food for thought this Earth Day with her pick: Consider Bardwell Rupert.
What does Earth Day mean to you? To me it translates into the perfect opportunity to introduce you to some favorite cheeses, made in sustainable and earth-friendly ways. Take Consider Bardwell’s yellow-hued, whale stamped alpine tomme, Rupert, for example. This 25-pound beauty hails from the area straddling Vermont’s pristine Champlain Valley and New York state’s easternmost Washington County. Originally a cheese-making co-op way back in the mid-1800’s, the Consider Bardwell Farm was neglected for years, but fortunately for us, a couple of cheese visionaries stepped in to revitalize its cheese-making history!
Rupert’s sweet, almond-nutty deliciousness starts in the field with all of the great grassy diversity inherent in local foraging and fresh pasture eating. Since Consider Bardwell Farm only raises goats on the property, the farm partners with three neighboring dairy farms to source their milk, effectively breathing economic vitality back into the struggling Vermont community. Previously, the dairies were non-working or raised their cows in the conventional way, but with the loving support of Consider Bardwell Farm, these dairies now pasture their animals in the summer, utilizing rotational grazing practices, and feed the cows dry hay from Consider Bardwell in the winters.
The farm also keeps its pastures pesticide and fertilizer free, and has recently joined the USDA Grassland Reserve Program, or GRP. According to the USDA, the GRP consists of voluntary conservation membership which emphasizes biodiversity of local flora and fauna, as well as protection of grassland. With all of this natural diversity in their diets, coupled with sunshine and fresh air, the happy cows who graciously provide their milk for Rupert stay healthy without the use of antibiotics and added hormones.
If you’re not already sold on this cheese just take a look at its trophy case! In both 2010 and 2011, Rupert was an American Cheese Society winner, and in 2011 it took home awards at the U.S. Cheese Championship . Try it! On its own this smooth, rich alpine beauty makes a phenomenal midday snack. It is equally delicious grated in a bright spring vegetable tart in place of Gruyere (the ramps have arrived!). But since Earth Day is all about loving our planet, why not pack a picnic and get outside to enjoy the sunshine and nature that Consider Bardwell Farm is working to preserve!
Rupert isn’t the only cheese from Consider Bardwell that’s creating buzz around Murray’s. The recent arrival of Pawlethas our mongers going crazy! Named for its hometown in Vermont, Pawlet is a raw Jersey cow’s milk treasure, one of a handful of cheeses made at the farm. Originally founded in 1864 by Consider Stebbins Bardwell, it was the first cheesemaking co-op in the state. Little more than ten years ago, new owners Russell Glover and Angela Miller began to revitalize the traditional farm, spanning 300 acres from Vermont’s Champlain Valley all the way to Washington County, New York. With 100 Oberhasli goats, and using cow’s milk from a neighbor’s herd, their handmade cheeses are all named after local towns and mountains.
So what’s got us so jazzed about Pawlet? Quite simply, I think it’s a perfect cheese to eat right now because it works well for all of my summer eating: sandwiches, snacking and BBQing. This 4th of July I’m going to shred it over grilled local vegetables from my farmers market. I’ve already paired it with a red ale while snacking, and I know it’ll be amazing with any crisp wine – try a robust Sauvignon Blanc. Creamy, nutty and rich, you’re going to love how Pawlet melts – either over a burger or on a grilled cheese. It’s as versatile as the town of Pawlet itself, which the cheesemakers tell us is home to syrup, timber and slate!
by Sydney Willcox, head monger at Murray’s Cheese West Village
Everyone is talking about Rupert! Rupert has just arrived at our shop and is causing a lot of excitement behind the counter. Rupert is a raw Jersey cow’s milk cheese from Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet, VT and is named after Rupert, Vermont, one of the state’s oldest towns. The aged cheese is formatted in large wheels, around 25 pounds, which sport a super cute whale carved into the top. It’s an alpine style cheese, meaning it’s based on the big guys coming from the Alpine mountains of France and Switzerland like Comte, Gruyere, or Beaufort. This also means you’ll find the same kind of firm but easy-to-melt texture and similar sharp and nutty flavors in Rupert as you do in those classic cheeses. I find an added level of complexity in this cheese- sometimes I can taste strong berry notes, other times I taste buttered toast. Despite the range of flavors this guy tends to be loved by all – nuanced enough for the connoisseur, but never too overwhelming for the more timid cheese lover. The American Cheese Society agrees – they awarded Rupert 3rd place in the 2009 Best In Show category!
As for the best way to enjoy this award-winning cheese, let me count the ways… Rupert is an outstanding snacking cheese, delicious all on its own, but for those looking to take it to the NEXT LEVEL I have more than a few recommendations. Alpine style cheeses make perfect melters; one of my favorite ways to eat Rupert is on a classic grilled cheese. I find the cheese stands out perfectly on its own, sandwiched between two golden brown and completely buttered pieces of sourdough. If you want to get a little wild go ahead and throw on some bacon or Surryano ham – the smokiness perfectly complements the apricot-like sweetness and cuts through the heavy mouthfeel from the fat. When I’m trying to go for a lighter route I use grilled vegetables as my vehicle instead of bread- rupert is perfect for grating over charred asparagus and zucchini: it adds a touch of saltiness and a nice gooey layer over the crispy veggies. If it’s too hot to think about melted cheese, slather on some sweet fruit paste, like membrillo or a tangy plum mostarda.
Rupert’s stand-alone tastiness and versatility makes it one of the best new additions to our cheese case, hands down. Inspired by well-known cheeses, it seems comfortingly familiar, but there’s also something refreshing and unexpected about it – just the sort of thing people look for when they come to Murray’s. It’s the kind of cheese that’s just different and exciting enough to bring out enthusiasm from those who never knew they were cheese lovers. What are you waiting for? Give it a try!